The Veeck name is synonymous with a passion for sports fans. William “Night Train” Veeck doesn’t need to be reminded of his family lore, though his love of those sports fans isn’t just a product of his genealogy.
“Obviously, [the Veeck name] comes with a healthy dose of history, but I did kind of roll the genetic dice and come out the way that I am,” Veeck told the Chicago Sun-Times. “There is a little bit there behind it and behind the name Veeck, but at the same time, I think at the other end of that double-edged sword, my love for the fan and sports in general has really come to fruition.
“I started and learned it at a very young age,” he added. “There’s a lot of healthy love for that there already.”
Now Veeck, the 34-year-old grandson of the legendary Bill Veeck Jr., will apply that love to his role as COO of the new Chicago franchise in the National Independent Soccer Association. A third-division league, the NISA, founded in 2017, stresses its openness and independence. Teams own their marks and have freedom to operate as they please, and there are no territorial restrictions stopping clubs from setting up shop where they want.
Aiming to begin play in August 2021, the Chicago franchise is helmed by Peter Wilt, who launched the Fire and Red Stars, among others. Veeck said he was drawn to the project by Wilt’s background in the game, how they share a belief in transparency with fans, and a desire to build a franchise.
It helped, Veeck said, that the opportunity came to work with the “Johnny Appleseed” of U.S. soccer.
“ ‘Night Train’ is a passionate man of the fan, and I look forward to him rededicating that passion back into the Chicago community,” Wilt told the team website. “He lives and breathes the fan experience and is a massive believer in delivering that experience to everyone that enters the gates. ‘Train’ has successfully implemented numerous fan-centric campaigns on two continents and is no stranger to rolling a tarp, which I appreciate.”
Veeck, indeed, has a diverse set of experiences.
He spent 6½ years with the White Sox, working in group sales and as manager of fan engagement. He broke into baseball when he was hired by the South Atlantic League’s Charleston RiverDogs, becoming the fourth generation of his family to work in the sport. More recently, Veeck was employed by Cricket Australia, serving as the fan engagement specialist for their Big Bash League.
From all of those stops, Veeck said he learned he has an ability to engage with fans in their areas and levels while generating communities. He’ll be tasked to do the same in Chicago for a startup franchise trying to gain traction during a pandemic.
“If I can go to Australia and work with cricket fans in a sport I didn’t know and now have grown to love as well,” Veeck said, “I think I can probably do pretty well over here back in Chicago.”